5 Neurosculpting Practices for Lasting Brain Change

April 8, 2019

How many times do you beat yourself up for repeating the same limiting or self-sabotage patterns even though you “know better”? You might find yourself reaching for the next self-help book or seminar which often reiterates all the ways you “know better.” Back to square one!

Part of the problem is that knowing better often has little power to actually create real and lasting brain change. Science supports the idea that our unconscious and subconscious processes account for far more of our behavior drivers than conscious thought processes. So if our behaviors and patterns are dictated more from subconscious patterns than conscious ones, it really does little good to “know better.” Instead, for lasting brain change we have to “do better.”

Self-directed neuroplasticity, and practices like Neurosculpting, are some of the keys to influencing our thought patterns, breaking old ones, and establishing new ones. The great news is we can use some simple practices to begin winning over the brain and body, priming it to be more predisposed to self-directed change. Incorporating these five best practices can open the doors to a more graceful, resilient, and lasting experience of change.

1. Gratitude

Having a gratitude practice has been neurologically and biologically proven to have a profound effect on the body and mind. When the mind and body reach these states we feel less apprehensive about change and more open to new possibilities and uncertainty. UC Berkeley reports that practicing gratitude can lead to:

  • A strong immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Joy
  • Forgiveness
  • Ease of chronic pain
  • Compassion
  • Social involvement

A simple gratitude practice can be five minutes in the shower making a list of the things in your day that support your comfort and safety. These might be appreciating the warm water, noticing you have shelter, or remembering you had a soft bed to sleep in. When you focus on the simple yet plausible things that support your comfort and safety, gratitude begins to cultivate naturally.

2. Brain Nutrition

Nourishing ourselves with foods high in Omega-3s and healthy fats is one of the best ways to support a healthy brain and a quality meditation practice in which to shift your patterns. Our body uses Omega-3s and healthy fats to build grey matter in our brain. In addition to brain nutrition, hydration is essential to healthy cognitive function, concentration, attention, memory and self-directed neuroplasticity.  

A simple practice to begin priming you for brain resilience and change is to put your food on a plate, eat it at a table, and make sure you have a healthy fat, protein, and source of quality slow carbohydrates like vegetables.

3. Daily Shaking Practice

When we experience a stress response, stress hormones (including adrenaline) move into the bloodstream and muscles contract and tighten. These physical changes occur in order for the body to engage in a fight-or-flight response for protection. When the body is in this state we are at our most resistant to change.

In most of the stressors that we typically face in our daily lives, however, we do not hit or run our way out of the situation, and the contracted physical state remains for extended amounts of time unnecessarily. This ultimately creates a potential for long-term physical maladies, including chronic pain and illness, and a mental rigidity that sabotages change.

One of the best ways to release tension, stress, or contraction—and prime the brain for lasting change—is to quite literally shake it off!

Consider what a rabbit, or any mammal, does after it has been chased by a predator and is now safe: it likely hides under a bush or object and shakes until the adrenaline has dispelled and the muscles can relax. You may have experienced your body attempting to use this technique naturally and perhaps have even tried to resist or control involuntary shaking.

We can utilize this natural biological strategy to release muscle tension and alleviate stress hormone buildup in the body. Consider finding a private space and informing people that you will be shaking so they know there is no medical emergency. Having a daily shaking practice releases unused and un-useful tension and contraction, allowing for alleviation and relaxation.

Feel free to shake violently and to even develop a daily shaking practice—as many others have!

4. Tapping with Non-Dominant Hand

This is one of our favorite Neurosculpting tricks! When you are in a meditation and find yourself in a moment that you would like to access easily later or anchor in now, you can tap a part of your body with your non-dominant hand. Creating a physical sensation in connection with a particular experience creates an association. This physical association makes the experience more easily accessible later.

Tapping can be used to retrieve the memory during another meditation, and even throughout the day. While it may not be as in-depth as a full meditation, tapping in the same place on your body with your non-dominant hand will bring the experience to mind. Imagine trying to establish a new pattern yet never having real-time moments to remind your subconscious mind of it. That new pattern will simply begin to fade away.

With this simple tip you can give gentle reinforcement to your new pattern while standing in line at the grocery store, driving in your commute, cooking, or showering. You can tap with your non-dominant hand in most moments and access the experience on a conscious or subconscious level.

5. Daily Novelty Exercises

Pique your brain’s interest with novel activities every time it crosses your mind. You can use imaginative yet non-threatening, simple exercises throughout the day to engage your brain. Ideas that are interesting, but not unnerving, can excite brain activity without a stressor and bring it into a heightened state of focus and receptivity to adaptation. This supports your brain’s capacity for pattern changes, problem-solving, goal-setting, and approaching your day with relaxed yet focused attention. Be creative and keep it simple.

Here is a list of novel and silly ideas to engage healthy activity in your brain throughout the day:

  • Brush your teeth or hair with your non-dominant hand
  • 
Get dressed out of order (opposite shoe first, shirt before pants)
  • Reverse or rearrange your morning routine
  • 
Imagine or envision a completely new shape or color
  • 
Imagine what the world would look like if you walked on your hands

These simple practices each day gently engage our ability to down-regulate our rigidity and up-regulate our predisposition to adaptation so that when we focus on making changes the brain is as receptive and focused as possible. Lasting brain change is not about what you know, it’s about what you do.


Lisa Wimberger is the founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute. She holds a master’s degree in education, a certificate in the Foundations of NeuroLeadership, and certificates in medical neuroscience, visual perception, the brain, and neurobiology. She is the author of New Beliefs, New Brain: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear, and Neurosculpting: A Whole-Brain Approach to Heal Trauma, Rewrite Limiting Beliefs, and Find Wholeness. As the founder of the Neurosculpting modality, Lisa runs a private meditation practice in Colorado, teaching clients who suffer from stress disorders. She is a faculty member of Kripalu Yoga and Meditation Center, the Law Enforcement Survival Institute, Omega Institute, and 1440 Multiversity.


Join Lisa Wimberger & 25 Leading Experts in the Fields of Neuroscience and Functional Medicine in the Brain Change Summit!

Lisa Wimberger

Photo of ()\

Lisa Wimberger is the founder of the Neurosculpting Institute and author of New Beliefs, New Brain. A member of the National Center for Crisis Management and other care associations, she has a private practice in Denver, CO, specializing in helping clients with stress disorders. For more, visit neurosculptinginstitute.com.

Also By Author

5 Neurosculpting Practices for Lasting Brain Change

Incorporating these five best neuroplasticity practices can open the doors to a more graceful, resilient, and lasting experience of change.

Neurosculpting

Founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute Lisa Wimberger speaks with Tami Simon about how people can change their ingrained beliefs and conditioned behaviors using her revolutionary method. Neurosculpting takes a whole-brained approach to changing the way we deal with stress. Lisa relates how to “set up our brains for change” by calming our fight, flight, and freeze response, and guides us through a Neurosculpting session so we can see how we might respond in a new way to a stressful situation. (66 minutes)

You Might Also Enjoy

Steve Macadam: Enabling the Full Release of Human Poss...

Steve Macadam was, for 12 years, the President and CEO of EnPro, a $1.4 billion publicly traded company. He received a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky, an MS in finance from Boston College, and an MBA from Harvard University, where he was a Baker Scholar. He currently serves as an independent director on the boards of Louisiana-Pacific Corporation and Valvoline Inc. In this week’s podcast, Tami and Steve discuss what it means for a company to have “dual bottom lines,” and the aspiration to create a business with the formal purpose of enabling the full release of human possibility. (1 hour, 13 minutes)

What Triggers Your Emotional Inflammation?

It’s time to start unraveling the mystery of you by exploring your current state of mind. Think of this as an adventure, a path toward greater self-understanding and self-compassion—and an expanded appreciation of the complexity of you. To get a sense of the modern-world issues that tend to rile or upset you, put on your imaginary miner’s hat and head into the depths of your mind to see what lies below your conscious awareness. (You may want to do this with a trusted friend or partner.) 

Consider your true feelings about the following subjects, without letting preconceived ideas about the right or politically correct way to think or feel about these subjects guide you; simply let your real feelings flow out of you in a free-association style. 

Have a journal and a piece of paper ready. As you read the following words and phrases, jot down the first three to five words or phrases that come to your mind in response (don’t edit or change what occurs to you instinctively):

  • • Climate crises 
  • • Me Too scandals 
  • • Human rights abuses (on a grand scale) 
  • • Political corruption 
  • • Racial, religious, gender, or political discrimination 
  • • Environmental threats (toxins in our midst) 
  • • Volatile financial circumstances 
  • • Natural disasters (wildfires, floods, storms) 
  • • International threats 
  • • Social divisiveness in this country
  • • Hate crimes 
  • • Nuclear weapons threats 
  • • Gun violence 

If other current events are triggering emotional inflammation for you, write them down in your journal or on a piece of paper.

Don’t worry if you feel put on the spot, thought-tied, and unable to come up with the right words to describe how you feel in response to the prompts listed above. Take a deep breath, exhale, and peruse this sample response. Rather than letting this person’s examples sway or influence you, try to use them as inspiration to unlock the floodgates on your true feelings. 

Now it’s your turn!

After you’ve completed your list, assign a value to each of these concerns in terms of their potency for you on a scale of 0 to 3 (with 0 being neutral and 3 being intense). Do this quickly so you don’t have too much time to think about it or second-guess your instinctive responses. Once you’ve finished this, place these triggers into a hierarchical list from a potency of 3 to 0, based on how they affect or resonate with you. This will give you a sense of what is likely to get you riled up these days.

If you want to dig a bit deeper, think about the way you responded to the descriptions of certain triggers—that you felt disgusted, violated, sad, and threatened when you thought about Me Too scandals, for example—then consider whether any situations from your past have evoked similar feelings for you. As you may see, emotional injuries or reverberations from the past can make you vulnerable to similar insults and assaults in the present. It’s almost as if you have an emotional ember lying beneath your consciousness, and it’s predisposed to flaring up from time to time. If you hear a single piece of distressing news and find yourself reacting surprisingly strongly to it, think about what else may be crashing around you or whether the news has somehow opened Pandora’s box and exposed you to a deep abyss of other fears and worries. Or it may be that a more superficial emotional injury is on the way to healing but then the scab gets ripped off and the wound bleeds again when another upsetting event occurs. 

As it happens, we often experience emotions in our bodies, and sometimes our bodies register those feelings before our minds do. So if you have trouble pinpointing how you’re feeling with words, you may want to scan your body for clues. When researchers in Finland performed a series of cross-cultural studies with 701 people from West European and East Asian cultures, they had the participants view various words, stories, movies, or facial expressions, then color specific regions on silhouettes of bodies where they felt activity increasing or decreasing while they viewed each stimulus. This exercise in mapping bodily sensations in response to emotions revealed that basic emotions—including anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise—were associated with sensations of elevated activity in the upper chest, which likely reflects changes in breathing and heart rate. Increased sensations in the arms and torso were associated with anger. Decreased sensations in the arms and legs corresponded to sadness. And increased sensations in the gut (the digestive system) and throat were found primarily with disgust. The most fascinating revelation was that these effects rang true among people cross-culturally. 

So if you have a mental block that makes it difficult to recognize your emotional triggers (which some people do, in a subconscious effort to protect themselves from emotional discomfort), paying attention to your bodily sensations can give you clues about what you’re experiencing. Even if you are highly attuned to your emotional reactions, sometimes they can sneak up on you, and you might experience a particular bodily sensation before you are aware of the actual trigger or your response to it. That’s because we all have blind spots to reflexive emotional states we’re susceptible to experiencing. 

This is an excerpt from Emotional Inflammation: Discover Your Triggers and Reclaim Your Equilibrium During Anxious Times by Lise Van Susteren, MD, and Stacey Colino.

Buy your copy of Emotional Inflammation at your favorite bookseller!
Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop

A Doctor’s Simple Tips on How to Get Better Sleep

Thanks to groundbreaking research, we have recently learned that every cell has its own timekeeper that can be thought of as a local clock. Deep within the brain, in the hypothalamus, lies a master clock that regulates all the local clocks, making sure that each one is set to the same time. This complex, coordinated process is in sync with the alternating cycles of day and night and with all the degrees of changing light that occur in a 24-hour period as Earth rotates on its axis. Called the “circadian rhythm”—from the Latin words circa, which means “going around,” and diem, meaning “day”—this internal process regulates the human body’s sleep-wake cycle, among many other functions. 

The master clock (think of it as circadian rhythm central) sends hormonal and nerve signals throughout the body, synchronizing the cells’ clocks to the day-night, light-dark cycle of life. On a continuous basis, the master clock can determine what time it is based on messages from photoreceptor cells in the retina that register light conditions outside and report these to the brain via specialized pathways. 

Meanwhile, the cellular clocks keep local time, making sure that various activities locally are timed right and are appropriately coordinated with other cells and organs. This is why, for example, key enzymes are produced at certain times, blood pressure and body temperature are controlled, hormones are secreted, the gut microbiome is populated with the right balance of bacteria, and gut motility is appropriate for the hour. 

Living in harmony with the way we have evolved brings physiological and emotional balance, creating a good fit between our bodies and minds, between what we’re doing and how we’re designed to function. Honoring our body’s natural rhythms helps stabilize our mood, become more resistant to stress, feel less physical pain, and generally feel and function better physically and mentally. It’s an essential step in cooling and calming emotional inflammation. 

The following are some ways you can adjust your habits so that they support your body’s inherent rhythms: 

  • Put yourself on a sleep schedule. Establish a regular sleep-wake schedule so that you go to bed at approximately the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. It’s fine to vary your bedtime by an hour or two occasionally, but don’t sleep in more than an extra hour on the weekends (unless you’re sick); otherwise, you will end up disrupting your sleep pattern for the next night. 
  • Identify your slumber sweet spot. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to feel and function at their best. Once you figure out how much you need, determine what time you need to get up in the morning and work backward to set an appropriate bedtime; or, you can identify what time of night you typically feel sleepy and then set a wake-up time accordingly. 
  • Brighten your mornings. When you get up in the morning, expose yourself to bright, natural light to stimulate alertness, enhance your mood, and help calibrate your circadian rhythms. Take a brisk walk outside or have breakfast in a sunny spot. If you struggle to reset your internal clock to the “awake” setting in the morning, consider buying a commercial light box that emits 10,000 lux, which mimics a bright, sunny day. Sitting in front of such a light box for 30 minutes in the morning, perhaps while you have breakfast or read the newspaper or newsfeeds, has been found to stimulate alertness and improve mood. Alternatively, you could opt for a desk-lamp-style light box for your desk at work. 
  • Adjust your indoor lighting. Fascinating research has found that office workers who are exposed to greater amounts of light in the morning fall asleep more quickly at night. They also have better sleep quality and better moods, including less depression and stress, than those who are exposed to low light in the morning. 
  • Darken your evenings. There is another good reason to make sure that your bedroom (or wherever you sleep) is dark: When people are exposed to light during the night, their total daily melatonin production is suppressed dramatically, by as much as 50 percent. In other words, that nighttime light exposure throws the body’s 24-hour hormone production schedule off-kilter. It’s also wise to install a dimmer switch on the overhead light in the bathroom—or use a dim night-light—so that bright vanity lights don’t stimulate your senses and alertness while you’re taking care of bathroom business before hitting the sack or if you get up during the night.

Ultimately, honoring your body’s natural rhythms requires taking back control of your nights and days. It’s about putting time on your side and making conscious choices about the way you want to live so that you can restore your internal equilibrium, physiologically and psychologically. 

Yes, changing your behavior requires giving up the patterns you chose, consciously or not, in the past, and making the switch does take some effort and resolve. But if you make it a priority to stop upsetting your body’s internal rhythms and start living in sync with your body’s inherent needs, the payoffs will be well worth the effort. Your mood is likely to end up on a more even keel, and your energy will increase. Your physical health will probably improve and your emotional equilibrium will, too. Think of it this way: By respecting your body’s rhythms and doing whatever you can to maintain their regularity, you’ll be resetting your internal emotional thermostat, which will improve the way you react to and deal with the stresses and strains that are unavoidable in our modern world.

This is an excerpt from Emotional Inflammation: Discover Your Triggers and Reclaim Your Equilibrium During Anxious Times by Lise Van Susteren, MD, and Stacey Colino.

A Music Playlist for Better Sleep

To help you achieve the best night of rest, we recommend falling asleep to this relaxing music playlist, Music for Better Sleep, available through Sounds True on Spotify.


Lise Van Susteren, MD, previously served as a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University. She is a go-to commentator about anxiety and trauma for television (including CNN, Good Morning America, NBC, VOA, and Fox News), radio (NPR, Minnesota Public Radio, and others), print media (including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the Huffington Post, and CQ Magazine), and online outlets (such as Live Science, U.S. News & World Report, Global Health NOW, and many others).

As a thought leader and activist, Dr. Van Susteren addresses issues related to trauma and emotional inflammation through her roles at the Earth Day Network and Physicians for Social Responsibility. She is considered an expert in the psychological effects of climate change.

Stacey Colino is an award-winning writer specializing in health and psychology. In addition to her work as a book collaborator, she is a regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report and AARP.org. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post Health section, Newsweek, Parade, Cosmopolitan, Real Simple, Health, Prevention, Woman’s Day, Harper’s Bazaar, Parents, and Good Housekeeping, among other magazines and newspapers.

Buy your copy of Emotional Inflammation at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop

>
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap